Modification Of Parenting Time
A big part of my law practice involves modifying prior court orders. Many court orders can be modified. You can modify your parenting time, decision making, child support, and other court order. The process can be fairly quick if there is an agreement and it can take from a few months to a year or more when the modification requested is contested.
In order to modify parenting time, you must be able to show the court that it is in the best interests of the children for a change to be made. This change might be as simple as adding on a little bit of parenting time, reducing the parenting time by a little, or it could be a major change to where the parent that has the children the majority of the time would then have the children a minority of the time. The bigger the change that you are looking for, the more evidence and reasons you will need in order to convince the judge that the changes are in the best interests of the children. In order to modify your parenting time, you must first file a Motion to Modify Parenting Time. Almost every court around the Denver Metropolitan area will require that you attend mediation with the other parent in order to try to resolve your motion before they will give you a hearing.
When my clients are looking to modify their parenting time, I like to sit down and discuss with them face to face the reasons that they believe that a change would be beneficial for the children. The more reasons that we can come up with together, the better our chances of getting the court to see things our way and modify the court order. Sometimes it becomes necessary to hire an “expert” to help support our position that the modification would be in the best interests of the children.
One type of “expert” is a CFI (child and family investigator). They will talk to both parents, talk to the children (if the children are old enough) and interview 3rd parties that may have helpful information. The CFI will also look at documents that you may have that also give them information that is helpful. After taking everything into account, the CFI will write a report that is submitted to the judge. The report will describe what they saw, what they heard, and what their opinion is on whether changes should be made to the parenting time. The fee for a CFI is usually $2,750. Most often the court makes each side pay half, but sometimes the court will order one side to pay the whole cost. If you qualify as being indigent, you may be able to get your portion of the CFI fee paid for by the state.
Because a CFI is working on a smaller retainer, which means they can only put so many hours into the case, sometimes it is necessary to hire an expert that will spend a lot more time and dig even deeper into your case. This sort of expert is called a PRE (parental responsibilities evaluator). A PRE usually has a PhD. or a Psy.D. and is a mental health expert. They will conduct psychological testing of both parents, conduct several interviews with parents and other witnesses and review documents. The cost for a PRE is much high than the cost for a CFI and can start around $4,000 and go up. When one parent wants a PRE and the other parent does not want a PRE, the Court will often order the parent wishing to have a PRE pay for the entire cost up front. At the time of the hearing, the Court has the authority to make one parent reimburse some or all of the PRE cost to the parent that originally paid it.
Once the CFI or PRE has written their report, that is a good time to have the mediation. If the report looks like the “expert” did a thorough job and their recommendations make sense, both sides will know that the court is likely to take the recommendations very seriously. That does not mean the Court will do exactly as the expert has recommended, but the court will take what the expert has to say very seriously. A CFI or PRE are very helpful to the court because they are a neutral party. Their job is to be the court’s eyes and ears and let the court know what they believe is really going on and what they believe is in the best interests of the children. If the CFI or PRE report comes out and you disagree with it, you have an opportunity to hire another expert to refute what they have said at your expense. Obviously, this will start to get very expensive.
If a modification is something that you are interested in, we will go through the step, the reasons you want a modification, and discuss the likelihood of a favorable outcome for you. I will also give you an idea of what I think it will cost and whether I think we need an expert involved. That way you can decide whether you want to invest the time and money in the modification.